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In “ I’m Not a Spinster Aunt, I’m a PANK ,” Allison P. Davis describes the newish phenomenon of “aunthood as a marketing opportunity.” PANK is an acronym for Professional Aunt, No Kids.  Marketers see the PANK as “the next key demographic” because of her buying power; she has “discretionary income and discretionary emotional attachment.”

PANKs buy their nieces and nephews tiny designer goods. They also take them on fabulous trips. Davis quotes baby-fashion designer Yen Chan, who is herself a childless, doting aunt:

More and more people are delaying getting pregnant, so there are a lot more women out there that are quite happy, but don’t have children, but like to nurture. Both my brothers had children right away. I figured, Well, I don’t have children, I have a disposable income, I love those kids. So why not?

I can identify with these PANKs. While I fall well below the income level of the women described in this article, I adore my sister’s children, and I take great delight in giving them gifts. Yet the PANK mentality is dangerous because it mistakenly equates buying things with nurturing.

In a consumerist culture, parents must continuously struggle against the lie that the best parents make sure their children have the best of everything. Good parents know that it is not good for their children to have all that they desire. Good aunts, uncles, and godparents know this too.

To nurture is to encourage growth. Those of us who are childless should be nurturing the children around us by encouraging the growth of their minds, bodies, and most importantly, their souls. We should reinforce godly parenting rather than undermining it. We can introduce them to books that will cultivate their imaginations and form their characters. We can teach them songs (both the silly and the sacred should be included). We can talk to them. We can look them in the eye. We must relate to them as image-bearers of God, not as little mannequins.

As the holidays draw near, I look forward to spending time with my nieces and nephew. I have already given thought to what I will give them for Christmas, but I’m not going to limit that to what can be wrapped up and put under the tree.

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